Project: Clockwork Clusterfuck

It’s a new month, and so I’ve started sketching out a new project for One Game A Month. Several, in fact, but this is the first one.

Clockwork Clusterfuck

The central idea of this project is one of the vague themes from my list of secondary goalsTime as Space.

The project name, Clockwork Clusterfuck, refers to a Noodle Incident mentioned in two of my NaNoWriMo novels. It really doesn’t fit the mood I’m going for, but I haven’t thought of a proper title just yet. Knowing me, though, I’ll probably run out of time and decide to stick with it, mood dissonance be damned.

This one will be a point-and-click adventure game, a murder mystery in the vein of the novels of Agatha Christie and others. An investigator (the player) attempts to unravel the plots surrounding the death of an extraordinarily unpopular individual. The twist is that the player character’s timeline is not aligned with that of the rest of the world; as ey moves between areas, ey also skips back and forth through time. As a consequence, eir mission is not only to find the truth, but also to be in the right place at the right time—literally.

Without a doubt, the biggest challenge in creating this game will be the plot. I have never written a murder mystery, even a regular one, and a non-linear timeline won’t make it any easier. Who is the murderer? How and when did it happen? And no less importantly, how do I limit the time travel feature so as not to ruin the challenge? Is the temporal anomaly connected to the case, or is it incidental? Do the other characters notice, and how do they react? I have some thoughts on the nature of the time travel itself, but I will elaborate on those in a future post.

The time travel mechanic also raises technical considerations. How do I model a game world in which there are multiple versions of the same room, each of which may have an impact on later versions? The same question applies to characters, their actions, and their knowledge. Carrying items around, a staple of most adventure games, is trivial as long as the player moves forward in time—an object disappearing and then reappearing an hour later is no more strange than the player character eirself performing the same feat—but things quickly become less obvious when we view the same scenario in reverse. Do I allow the temporary duplication of items by carrying them back in time, perhaps going as far as to make this a part of the solution? So many questions!

The setting will be a Victorian manor of some kind, though it may not actually take place during that particular era.

Once again, I plan to write the game in Python. I don’t know whether to use pyglet again, or give Pygame a shot. Probably the former, as I lack the time and motivation to learn another library right now. Other than that, I will use the same tools.

While this is a February project, it may not turn into the project of the month. To be honest, I doubt my ability to both plan and implement it in a single month. A more likely scenario is that I’ll let it sit for a while at the back of my mind while I make one or two simpler games. We’ll see.